Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer on The Shape of Water

Cape Town - Guillermo del Toro’s award winning cold war era fantasy The Shape of Water opens in cinemas of Friday, 19 January.

An inexplicable biological “asset” of the US government, a mute cleaning woman, her loving best friends, Soviet spies and an audacious theft all flow into a singular romance that surges beyond all boundaries.

The film was conceived in 2011 when Del Toro and Daniel Kraus, the director’s writing partner on his children’s book series, Trollhunters, met for breakfast one morning.  

Kraus mentioned an idea he had as a teenager, about a cleaning woman working in a government facility and secretly befriending an amphibious man being held captive as a specimen and how she decides to liberate him. 

Del Toro loved the idea so much that he immediately said he wanted it to be his next movie - it seemed the perfect sort of fairy tale idea he had been searching for.

Each of the roles in The Shape of Water were written for a specific actor - the very same actors who Del Toro asked to appear in the film.

Sally Hawkins who plays Elise and Octavia Spencer who plays her best friend Zelda sat down for a Q&A about what drew them to the script, their roles and working with Doug Jones who plays the creature. 


Spencer: I play Zelda. We both work as cleaning crew. I am her best friend at work. 

Hawkins: Yes. And I play Elisa. Working at this facility. Janitors at this place, but they’re not really told much about what’s going on or included in of course they’re lesser beings, and the help. So, I’m Zelda’s best friend I suppose in the world.


Spencer: Well, reading that very first page where she’s dreaming that she’s floating, I started thinking how are they going to do this? I cannot wait. And then the more I read it, the more beautiful it became and I knew that Guillermo was getting back to his roots and I wanted to be a part of it. 

Hawkins: I mean it was magical. I sort of welled up at first…you never think you’re going to get that call and you always think they’ve got the wrong person. And even now I think, I’m sure he didn’t mean me. I mean he said Sally Hawkins, but as soon as I meet him he’s going to go: 'Oh, no. This is the wrong girl.' And I met him in Toronto and it was first sort of early drafts still. He was still writing it. And it’s so beyond, you sort of think how did that happen? You end up here, how did that…thank you. And I remember reading those first; and it was on a laptop when I was in Toronto when he sort of slid it across the table; and just stunning, and so overwhelmed. Beautiful, it’s beautiful. It’s the most beautiful script I’ve ever read I think.


Spencer: Well, he probably is like the Cirque du Soleil; he is more in touch with his body than anybody I know. Because he has the most difficult job, is that he has to actually embody it and he doesn’t get to show his facial features to help convey his different emotions. He’s amazing. 

Hawkins: He is amazing. 

Spencer: And a lot of fun, but you spent more time with him

Hawkins: I adore him. He’s got a huge heart and it just sings out, shines out through. It’s like acting in a straight jacket and yet a rubberised suit that’s wet a lot, so it’s incredibly heavy. And he’s this contortionist. Beautiful the way he moves. It’s like watching this dance, balletic, it’s stunning. And it’s so moving naturally to work with him. And I adore him as a human being and as a half fish man. It was easy to fall in love with him. He’s a very beautiful soul and it shines through. And he couldn’t see for a lot of it, he was underwater. And when he was coming up there was a very precise camera position where he had to be and yet it’s just stunning.  

Watch the trailer here:

(Photos supplied: Times Media Films)

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